Greek Salad

FullSizeRender-1Leery of trying a Greek salad without feta and creamy dressing? I was too, until I tried this recipe from the Whole30 book, and enhanced it a bit to make it more to my liking. (Added spinach, avocado, jicama, cilantro, and used cherry tomatoes instead of whole tomatoes…Also layered instead of tossing.) The fresh ingredients and lemony dressing made for a tasty whole meal salad when topped with grilled, chopped chicken breasts. I made four salads—two to eat right away, and two for lunches the next day, but if you’re making it as a side salad, it should serve 6. We loved it, even without our beloved feta crowning the greens.

Serves 4-6

For dressing:
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

For salad:
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
½ of a 6-ounce bag of ready-to-eat fresh spinach, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
3-4 thick slices of jicama, diced
½ of container of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
½ of red onion, minced
1 avocado, chopped
1 (12-ounce) jar of Kalamata olives, drained and halved
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Top with:
Grilled chicken breasts, chopped (optional)

Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl or jar and whisk or shake. Set aside.

Layer individual serving plates or large platter with lettuce and spinach. Add the remaining ingredients one at a time, starting with cucumber, and ending with cilantro. Drizzle with dressing. Add cooked chicken, if desired. Serve.

NOTE: This salad was great second day, not something you can usually say about a pre-dressed salad. I think that layering ingredients and drizzling dressing on top instead of tossing helped things stay fresh. It also helps avoid the dreaded gravity salad situation—when all the delightful heavy ingredients (like cukes and avocados) sink to the bottom, leaving only greens on top. Store in airtight container if making for next day.

Sausage, Apple, and Acorn Squash Casserole with Egg

IMG_1507Are you a serial cereal eater? Is it hard to imagine starting your day without your oatmeal or O’s? I didn’t think I could have energy for the day without my morning oatmeal, and that was the scary part of going Whole30 for me. But then I was paging through the Whole30 book and found this gem under “Fancypants Meals,” intended for part of a holiday dinner. It had a list of ingredients I love: portabella mushrooms, apple, acorn squash, and pepitas (pumpkin seeds), so I made it for supper one night to go with our grilled meat and roasted veggies. The next morning, I pulled out the leftovers for breakfast, heated a small plate of it in the microwave, and topped it with an over-easy egg. It’s become my new favorite breakfast! How did I exist on gruel all these years, like some middle-class, middle-aged Oliver Twist?

Serves 4-6

For sausage:
1 tablespoon ghee (or other Whole30 approved cooking fat)
½ of 1 yellow or white onion, minced
1 pound ground pork
½ teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

For casserole:
1 tablespoon ghee (or other Whole30 approved cooking fat)
1 acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 (10-ounce) container of baby bella (crimini) mushrooms, sliced
1 apple, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon ground rosemary
¼ cup pepitas or chopped pecans
Salt and coarse ground black pepper

For breakfast:
1-2 eggs

Preheat oven to 375°. Heat large frying pan on medium-high heat, and add ghee. Add ground pork and seasonings from sage to garlic powder, and stir and cook until pork is no longer pink. Add another tablespoon of ghee, and squash, mushrooms, and apple. Cook until fork-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the seasonings* and pepitas or nuts and transfer to a 9″x12″ glass baking or 2-quart casserole dish. Roast for 10-15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve as side dish for dinner, or cool, then transfer to a airtight container and refrigerate.

For breakfast, ladle a generous cup of casserole onto microwave-safe plate. Heat on high for 1 minute. While casserole is heating, fry up 1-2 eggs in a teaspoon of ghee, sunny side up, or over easy. Place egg on top of sausage casserole and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

NOTE: The Whole30 recipe used poultry seasoning, which I did not have on hand, so I used sage, rosemary, and thyme. (I didn’t add parsley, as I wasn’t in the mood for a Simon & Garfunkel song. Wait for it…wait for it…got it?) The book also suggested using ground turkey or chicken as well as the pork, but I felt the pork paired best with the mushrooms in this dish. They also made their sausage into patties, and then broke them up into bits for this dish. I’ve changed that process to cook the pork, and then continue on with the rest of the recipe in the same pan.

Date, Cashew, and Coconut Bars

IMG_1550The name says it all…only three ingredients needed to make these delicious Lärabar fake-outs. Having just finished week one of the Whole30 cleanse, I was missing “treats,” meaning bars or cookies, so I went searching for something to scratch that itch. (I know you aren’t supposed to feed your “sugar dragon,” but you are allowed to do snacks for when you’re on the go. So let’s just pretend I’m on the go. A lot.)

I had taste-testers at work and at home try these no-bake bars, giving no explanation other than that they were gluten-free. Everyone who tried them—GF, DF, or not—thought they were really good, and did NOT think they tasted like they were gluten-free. The dates provide both sweetness and glue for the other ingredients, and the nuts and coconuts give them good flavor and crunch. (Since I found this recipe multiple places online, I don’t really know who to give credit to, so pardon me for not citing my source!)

You will need a food processor to mix these, and I don’t think a blender would work as a substitute. These can be pricey ingredients, so I looked around before buying. I found the best price for pitted dates at Costco (if you get your kicks pitting dates, go ahead and do that—I’ve been cooking and chopping my butt off this week, and pitting my own dates would have put me over the edge). I got my raw cashews and unsweetened coconut at Trader Joe’s, as the price was better than Whole Foods or Cub. Next time I purchase ingredients, I’ll take note of the exact prices and figure out how much these cost per bar.

The first time I made these, I used just three ingredients, which worked great. I just made these again, and added the zest and juice of one whole lime, and it helped them stick together better, and made a moister bar. But if you aren’t in the mood for citrus, you can certainly leave that out! Word of warning: you have to keep these refrigerated. They stay chewy if kept cold, and get mushy and fall apart if left at room temp. That’s where packaged Lärabars have these beat—those are more portable.

Makes 12 bars

1 cup whole pitted dates (Medjool or Deglet Noor)
1 cup raw cashews*
1 cup unsweetened flaked or shredded coconut
Zest and juice of one whole lime (optional)

Preheat oven to 375º. Layer the raw cashews on a baking sheet, and toast in oven for 10-15 minutes, stirring once. Toast until golden brown. May sprinkle cashews with salt before toasting. Let cool.

Combine all dates, nuts, and coconut in food processor. Add lime zest and juice, if using. Pulse for a couple minutes, until the ingredients are in bits, and start to stick together. (See below.) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and transfer date mixture to pan. Push together to form a ball, then flatten into rough rectangle. Place a layer of plastic wrap on top, then continue pressing into a smoother rectangle, until about ½” thick. (See below.) Chill for 30-60 minutes. Cut into bars, and wrap each bar in plastic wrap. Store in frig to grab as needed.

*NOTE: Why toast the nuts yourself? Because most pre-roasted nuts are cooked in canola oil, and that’s not Whole30 approved. If you’re making these for a nutritious snack and not as part of Whole30 cleanse, then go ahead and purchase the roasted nuts.




Annual Review

IMG_0727Hey readers, it’s been a year since I started writing forknifespoon, and I’m curious if anyone is not seeing something they want to see posted, seeing too much of something else, or has any other (constructive) thoughts or opinions to share in order to make my blog better for you. (Other than that you want me to come make food for you in your home, Tom.) Feel free to post comments! If you’re 92.5% happy with the kinds of recipes I’ve been sharing, then let’s just say we’re all good, huh?

BTW, did anybody miss me??? I’ve had a doozy of a month, starting with an ambulance ride to ER when I woke up with back pain so bad I couldn’t move. And that’s not just a figure of speech! I really couldn’t move. I’ve been gradually healing from the disk and nerve issue that is the problem, but I had weeks where I couldn’t stand long enough to cook, or sit long enough to blog. Thus the lack of fresh posts!

And as a result of all the medical junk and crazy prescription pill popping I’ve been doing, my husband and I decided to try the Whole30 cleanse for the next 30 days. I’ll be sharing the recipes I’ve tried—and liked—and our experience as we trudge through the land of lean meats and varieties of veggies. If you’re not familiar with Whole30, it’s a plan to purge your system of all the sugars and processed foods we consume, and see if what we are ingesting might be causing internal inflammation and a host of other medical issues. So bear with me while I take a food foray into some new territory!

Here’s a funny story related to the previously mentioned ER trip, regarding the kind young men who rescued me from my home when I was in agony. Once I was finally mobile again, I called our local fire station to find out when the two guys who had helped me worked. I wanted to bring them some fresh chocolate chip cookies as a thank you. I was just going to drop the cookies with a card and run, but when I got to the station, the receptionist insisted I give the treats to them personally.

I met Jared and Matt (my new BFF’s) in the fire station hall, and sort of stammered my appreciation, and I realized as I was blubbering away that they had zero recognition of me. And why should they? I was standing upright, with hair and make-up done—not curled up in fetal position, crying from pain in my pee-soaked, ratty flannel PJ’s.

So I elaborated on what had happened, including “you had to come get me out of my bed” (a weird thing to say to two handsome young hunks…) until I finally saw the lights go on in their heads. “OH!!! Yes, I remember you. You look SO DIFFERENT!!!” one of them blurted.

Well, I certainly hope so, Jared, I certainly hope so.

Jorunn’s Hearty Flatbread

FullSizeRender-3It was worth the trip to Norway, just to have a piece of this awesome flatbread made by my cousin’s wife, Jorunn. She’s a retired home economics teacher, and a fabulous cook, and she came up with this recipe to serve with aged cheese, and smoked salmon or salty herring. It’s great as a side with soup, or works as breakfast when topped with boiled egg slices and cheese. We also fell in love with geitost (also spelled gjeitost, pronounced “yay-toast”) on our visit to Norway—a caramelized semi-hard cheese that is sweet and nutty and almost tastes like dessert. Pictured here is the flatbread served with sliced ham and geitost. Add a dollop of raspberry jam, and it’s a hearty treat done the Norwegian way. Used to be a challenge to find geitost in the U.S., as it was only at Kowalski’s or specialty cheese shops. Now Cub Foods and other grocery stores carry the blocks of Norwegian cheese wrapped in it’s signature red packaging.

It was a bit of a trick to convert Jorunn’s recipe from metric to Imperial measurements (American), but once we figured out the liter to cup conversion, we were able to commit the recipe to paper. This bread is chock-full of flax and oats and sunflower seeds, but no white flour, and is my only whole wheat bread recipe that can claim that. Normally, you need a heaping helping of white flour or else the bread won’t rise. Since this is meant to stay flat and be like a soft cracker, rising is not an issue.

1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup salted or unsalted sunflower seeds
½ cup flaxseeds, ground*
½ cup oat bran
1½ teaspoons salt
2½ cups boiling water
1 cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup rye flour
2½ teaspoons yeast
½ cup vegetable oil

In large bowl, combine oatmeal, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, oat bran, and salt. Stir in boiling water with wooden spoon until all ingredients are moistened. Let stand until mixture is luke warm. Add whole wheat flour, rye flour, yeast, and vegetable oil, and stir until ingredients are incorporated. Set in a sink of warm water, and cover with a clean, damp, kitchen towel. Let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°. Line large (11″x17″) baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread bread mixture onto lined pan, using a spatula to press dough down into pan. Cover with damp towel again, and let rise another 30 minutes.

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until brown around edges, and dough begins to pull away from edges slightly. When fresh from oven, cut bread into 20-24 pieces with pizza cutter, and move squares to cooling rack to cool completely. Once cooled, store in container with lid set slightly ajar to keep bread from getting too moist.

NOTE: Flaxseed needs to be ground in order for your system to be able to utilize it’s health benefits. If you buy it whole, you can run small amounts of the seeds through a coffee grinder to get a quick, course grind.